25 Employee Recognition and Reward Ideas

25 Employee Recognition and Reward Ideas

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The stats don’t lie —  putting employee recognition and reward ideas into action are key to driving employee engagement. That’s why we put together 25 employee appreciation and recognition tips easily adaptable for in-office, hybrid, and remote work situations. 

1. Create a #celebrations channel in your company chat

Want to boost morale? Celebrate success! Create a channel in your company’s Slack workspace to celebrate the good things — from shout-outs for jobs well done to work anniversaries, birthdays, welcoming new employees, and more.


2. Handwritten cards for birthdays and milestones

In our ultra-digital world, personal touches go a long way. Send handwritten notes to co-workers to celebrate birthdays, babies, and work milestones. (Bonus tip: Try to include at least one personal memory or detail, rather than a generic “happy birthday.”)


3. Introduce a public recognition feed

Use tech to get the employee recognition and appreciation flowing! With a real-time public recognition platform that encourages peer-to-peer praise, you can boost morale (and reinforce company values) no matter where your employees work. Bonus points? Studies show recognition programs strengthen company culture at organizations with dispersed, remote employees.

4. Let employees nominate peers for awards

Some of the best team-building and employee recognition ideas come from employees themselves! Invite employees to nominate co-workers for awards that reinforce your core values. Or, lean into the power of laughter with funny awards!

Need ideas? Check out 18 Funny Award Ideas Your Staff Will Love.


5. Highlight employees on your social media

Let the world be your staff appreciation bulletin board! Give employee shout-outs on LinkedIn or interviews in your company blog. Bonus: Social media sunshine is shareable, which helps spread the word about your company and the great work you’re doing.


6. Listen to your staff with surveys

Want to make employees feel appreciated? Take a quick pulse check to see how your staff is feeling, and be sure to address the results. It’s a great way to share the message: “Your feedback matters.”


7. Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Put it on your calendar! Employee Appreciation Day is the first Friday in March each year. Think of it like Valentine’s Day for employees — a great excuse to do something special to show your gratitude.


Boost morale, no matter where they work

Read: 20 Ways to Boost Morale and Prevent Burnout


8. Ask about life outside of work

One simple way to let employees know you care is to ask about their lives. Worried about overstepping? Try just asking one personal, yet appropriate question before each meeting, like asking about family, a recent trip or new hobby.


9. Celebrate soft skills

Soft skills like negotiation, communication and innovation are more important than ever before. But they can get lost in the metrics and numbers shaping our KRs. Set a reminder for yourself to recognize these important qualities! Bonus: Add them to your incentive program.


10. Be specific in your recognition

Build out your employee appreciation ideas with specific recognition. Hearing “Great job!” is much less effective than hearing “Great job leading that meeting. I could tell everyone was engaged because you took the time to really hear them out.” Get more tips on giving great recognition.

11. Give recognition in real time

Most people agree that recognizing and rewarding employees is a good thing to do — but where good intentions tend to fall apart is in the execution phase. Use a platform to make recognition part of your process.


What happens in your brain when you receive recognition?

Read: The Power of Recognition and Rewards


12. Host events that include families

Show employees you appreciate them as a whole person, not only for the work they do. At least once a year, invite employees’ families to a company event, like a holiday party or summer cookout. This gives your team the opportunity to show off their hard work to the people they love the most. 

Working remotely? Create a fun Zoom event!


13. Offer meaningful rewards

Gift cards and company swag are fine, but generic. Show employees you care by offering them a wide selection of rewards so they can choose something meaningful for them. (Bonus: Learn how to run a strategic rewards program.)


14. Minimize meetings

Meeting fatigue is a real thing. Show appreciation to your employees by respecting their time and creating a lean meeting culture. Can the information actually just be shared via email? Does the entire team really need to be in this conversation? The answers to those questions matter more than you think.


15. Send thank-you cards

Technology has improved our lives and work in meaningful ways — but even today, the magic of receiving mail is powerful and moving. Take the time to choose a card, and write something meaningful inside by hand.

16. Show employee appreciation consistently

The truth is, a quick, verbal “thank you” once a week is more powerful than an expensive gift that comes once a year. (Plus, building habits that help you recognize your team every day — not just every now and then — is the first step toward creating a game-changing feedback culture!)

17. Recognize effort, not just results

The destination is valuable, but so is the journey! And it requires hard work on your employees’ part. Recognize effort, not just results. It’s step one in creating a culture of psychological safety that encourages your employees to take risks, innovate, and make mistakes. 

18. Offer a surprise day off

Whether we use it to sleep in, binge on the new Netflix series or take a hike, we all love free time. Rewarding a job well done with a surprise day off can be very meaningful to the people on your team.


19. Invite employees to rep you at events

Many companies send employees to fundraisers, awards banquets and trade shows every year. These are fantastic opportunities to shake up a new team member’s day-to-day rhythm and engage them in a different capacity with your company. Plus, it shows them you want them around for the long haul!

20. Give employees a stretch project

Reward work with…more work? It sounds counterintuitive, but think of all the times in your life a mentor or teacher encouraged you to stretch beyond your limits. Not only did it help you grow, but it also demonstrated their confidence in you — which is a powerful morale-booster. (Looking for more ideas? Check out our list of 20 proven morale-boosters!)

21. Involve everyone in long-term planning

One of the biggest ways to demonstrate that you value someone is to involve them in your future. As you develop your organization’s long-term goals (bonus tips here), solicit your employees’ ideas, energy, and feedback on your organization’s bigger picture. Not only will this demonstrate that you value them — you might be surprised by the great ideas you receive. 

Want to keep driving success with goal-setting? Learn how WorkTango’s Goals & Feedback aligns and connects organizations.


22. Plan group outings

One of the best ways to show appreciation is to carve out time to just be with someone. Plan weekly, monthly or quarterly events for your team to mingle. It proves they’re worth something to you, and also enhances their ability to collaborate professionally.

23. Pair up team members for conversations

Coordinating personal chats for your team to get to know each other is one of the best ways to strengthen bonds and drive engagement. It sends the message that you value the relationships they’re able to build with peers, because you’re giving time to do it.

24. Make a charitable donation in their name

Make a donation to an organization your team cares about. What better way to show that you value a person?

25. Involve the team in the interview process

Getting multiple impressions of a job candidate, rather than relying on those of just one hiring manager, will greatly improve the quality of that decision. Another benefit is that the team members you involve in the process — whether they’ll soon be managers, peers or reporting to this new person — will know that what they think matters.


Ready to start your own recognition and rewards program?

We hope these employee recognition ideas helped! Remember, meaningful employee appreciation and recognition doesn’t have to be expensive. Using these tips (or check out our resource library for more!), you can make employee appreciation a regular part of your workday.

Or, let us be a resource for you.

At WorkTango, we’re revolutionizing how the world’s most forward-thinking companies engage and inspire their people. We offer the only holistic Employee Experience Platform built for the modern workplace that enables meaningful recognition and rewards, offers actionable insights through employee surveys, and supports alignment through goal setting and feedback.

WorkTango is built for the workplace we all want to be a part of – where priorities become clear, achievements are celebrated, and employees have a voice. To learn more, check out our platform overview video, or schedule a demo.